Arthur Carr: And do you feel strongly, at least do you feel sort of certain, that the zero should be at the end? The sequence is 1 to 0, rather than 0 to 9.
Robert Indiana: Well, it was designed so that it could be—I think originally the intention was that it could fall either way, Arthur, but what I think of these paintings is as the ten digits and since 10 happens to be a double number and therefore tends to be used, I think that to me the 0 primarily stands for the tenth digit. Now, since it is this gray and this rather, well, certainly colorless painting, it would be, shall we say symbolically, probably fall at the beginning; in other words, it is kind of nothing, and if I really completely intended the 10 to, the 0 to be the tenth digit, it would have to have been, shall we say, the most celebrated digit, so therefore this becomes an ambivalence on my part.
Carr: Why celebrated?
Indiana: Because it would culminate the—these numbers are a celebration. I mean them to be a celebration. Whether they are a celebration of the phases of life or a celebration of some kind of passage through time, they are a visual celebration. They are meant as a real feast to the eye. There is no—if I had meant them otherwise I might have made them all gray and I didn’t choose to do this.
Carr: But as representative of various stages of life, wouldn’t the last digit, then, necessarily symbolize death?
Indiana: Maybe so, maybe so, Arthur.
Carr: I thought that was what you were suggesting when you talked about the zero being somber.
Indiana: Well I’m not sure in my own mind how I meant it in that case. . . . I think of 10 as being the most colorful of all those paintings and that might be taking a not so dim view of death, but for the sake of the visual aspect of things, I could have made 10 a multi-colored number and I didn’t do so. Maybe it’s because it isn’t 10; maybe this is what keeps me from doing that.
Excerpt from Arthur C. Carr “The Reminiscences of Robert Indiana.” New York, November 1965. Arthur C. Carr papers; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.